Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I am a seasoned traveller. I have backpacked round Europe and even NYC alone and with kids and babies for the best part of 25 years so I don't normally find getting from A to B difficult. This time however crossing the 1400km from Copenhagen to Calais via Aarhus with over a million other stranded air passengers was proving tricky and costly. I didn't for one minute believe my MP (East Renfrewshire's Jim Murphy - Secretary of State for Scotland) could offer me anything I hadn't come up with myself but I wanted him to be aware there were people stranded in Europe for whom a bus in Madrid was not the optimum solution. More for fun, and for want of something better to do given the vacuum of information we were facing in Northern Europe, I decided to tease him with the following email first thing on Monday morning:

Hello Jim
I am one of your constituents living in Newton Mearns. This morning I had to ring all three of my children's schools to explain I, my husband and my 5 children are currently stranded in Europe unable to return home because of the Volcano. I was told many children and teachers are in the same situation.I find it interesting that no one is coming up with any solutions to get us home. Flying is a cheap form of transport these days - being able to fly to Europe doesn't mean you have enough money to finance endless nights in unbooked hotels, meals in restaurants or buses, trains and ferries across Europe. I simply cannot afford to come home by means other than budget airlines.

Today I was utterly dismayed to hear Gordon Brown on BBC world coming up with a plan to repatriate people in the US via Spain not even mentioning people stranded in Europe itself. I was due to fly from Copenhagen last Friday morning. I have tried overland and managed to get as far as Hamburg where the trains are now so full I cannot proceed given I have 2 babies with me. I am being offered 5 hour waits between train connections in the middle of the night in the middle of Germany and they are estimating 2 days overland to Calais where I might get a boat and then try to find my way from Dover to Glasgow. Three days overland at huge expense, with 5 kids between 12 weeks and 12 years is unaffordable.

Apart from Mr Brown no politician seems even to have noticed the crisis. I will be deciding who to vote for on May 6, depending on who has some real and practical solutions for me and the many families stranded at the end of the Easter school holiday.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

Of course I heard nothing back for 48 hours, which had I not had my mother-in-law's flat keys would have cost me another £300 at Danish prices if I had needed to pay two days food and two nights in a hotel at the current exchange rate. So 2/10 for a speedy reply for starters.
Then suddenly this afternoon I received this reply from one of his minions - I will copy it for you verbatim:

Thanks for emailing Jim, he has asked me to respond on his behalf.

Several constituents have contacted Jim about the terrible disruption that the volcanic ash has triggered across the world.

As I am sureyou can understand there is little that individual candidates can do, but please rest assured that the prime minister government is taking the matter extremely seriously and doing all it can to get people home as quicly as possible.

The Foreign Office's current plan for the dealing with UK nationals stranded in Europe can be found here -

I hope that this is of some use to you and reassures you somewhat.

If there is anything further you would like Jim to do please get in touch.

Best regards

Funnily enough I had actually found the foreign office's page of advice several days ago. What I do find interesting is that when I wrote pointing out crossing Europe to Calais or Madrid was too expensive and impractical with small children and the crowds currently on the trains and asked if Jim had any more helpful advice or suggestions, his second in command simply sent me an email full of spelling and grammatical errors linking me to the foreign office page that tells me to make my way either to Calais or Madrid after checking with my airline. Let's have a big round of applause for that one!

So I will sit here till Friday and if my flight is cancelled again, I will make my own expensive way to Calais (£500) and as a thanks for the 'prime minister government' sending all the buses he could find to Madrid rather than various centres around Europe, I will make a point of making sure I do not vote for Mr Murphy and his crew on May 6.


Derek said...

Surely you didn't expect Jim Murphy to respond personally - i hear he was too busy singing and dancing with OAPs to bother with real work!
Next up on the election traill i guess must be a straw factory to get in some decent clutching:-)

Phyl said...

I actually expected to be 100% ignored so was disappointed when the email came in - until of course I read it - that cheered me up no end because it was PERFECT blogging material.
Maybe Jim would like to repatriate us so he could kiss my baby on camera??? ;-)